Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Discovering Minnesota’s oldest Czech church, St. Wenceslaus July 2, 2015

AS A LIFE-LONG LUTHERAN, I’m mostly unfamiliar with patron saints of the Catholic church, even though my husband, now Lutheran, grew up Catholic.

The Church of St. Wenceslaus, New Prague, Minnesota.

The Church of St. Wenceslaus, New Prague, Minnesota.

So when I happened upon the majestic Church of St. Wenceslaus rising above the east end of New Prague’s Main Street, I had to research the saint whose carved image guards the impressive columned front entry.

A close-up of the St. Wenceslaus statue above the main church entry.

A close-up of the St. Wenceslaus statue above the main church entry.

St. Wenceslaus, duke of Bohemia from 921 until his murder in 935, is considered a martyr for the faith and is hailed as the patron of the Bohemian people and the former Czechoslavakia.

A side and rear view of this stunning church.

A side and rear view of this stunning church.

The selection of this saint for the New Prague congregation is fitting for a community with strong Czech roots. Founded in 1856, the Church of St. Wenceslaus is the oldest Czech church in Minnesota. It is now part of the New Prague Area Catholic Community.

This is the old section of St. Wenceslaus Catholic School, located next to the church. An addition was built in 2003. Students from kindergarten through eighth grades attend.

This is the old section of St. Wenceslaus Catholic School, built in 1914 and located next to the church. An addition was built in 2003. Students from kindergarten through eighth grades attend.

The parish also includes a school opened in 1878.

The church features two towers.

The church features two towers.

This duo towered brick church is stunningly beautiful. I paused numerous times while photographing the exterior simply to admire its artful construction. Churches aren’t built like this any more.

Even the side stairs are artful and the entire church well-maintained.

Even the side stairs are artful and the entire church exterior well-maintained.

My single regret was finding the doors locked on a Sunday afternoon. This was not unexpected; most sanctuaries are locked now days. I could only imagine the lovely stained glass windows I would find inside, along with more statues of patron saints and worn pews.

In sunlight (right) and in shade, the exterior tile floor under the columned entry is lovely.

In sunlight (right) and in shade, the exterior tile floor under the columned entry impresses.

Being Lutheran, I am intrigued by aged Catholic churches which are often significantly embellished with ornate details and religious art. This is so unlike most Lutheran churches. I appreciate both, wherein I find solace and peace. And perhaps that is the reason I seek out churches to photograph. Photographing them connects me, in a visual way, to God.

BONUS PHOTOS:

An overview of Mary's Garden, located between church and school.

An overview of Mary’s Garden, located between church and school.

Children surround the statue of Mary in the garden.

Children surround the statue of Mary in the garden.

Children of many ethnicities are part of the Mary statue.

Children of many ethnicities are part of the Mary statue.

More details in the garden statue art.

More details in the garden statue art.

At the foot of the Mary statue, a message, in Czech, says "welcome."

At the foot of the Mary statue, a message in Czech says “welcome.”

Petunias spill from a windowbox at the front of the school.

Petunias spill from a windowbox at the front of the school.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “Discovering Minnesota’s oldest Czech church, St. Wenceslaus”

  1. What a beautiful church, like you I try to get into every one I pass. This is a stunning example of such loving workmanship. That tile floor! Goodness. Maybe next time you can go inside I bet it is beautiful. c

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    It looks to be lovingly cared for too.

  3. You will have to go back and check out the inside. Vesli has a beautiful church too. Beautiful Captures 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    The exterior tile walkway=quilt pattern!!!!! And, most definitely yes, the Catholics know how to build those churches!!!!!!!

    • Of course, why didn’t I think of that, a quilt? Maybe the church ladies could create quilts in this design and sell/raffle at a church/school fundraiser.

      And, yes, the Catholics do know how to build artsy and ornate churches.

  5. Marilyn Says:

    The statues of the children are darling. I think that church art (paintings, sculptures, stained glass, etc.) started as a visual lesson for the many non-readers in the parish.

  6. This is a beautiful church. You are right they don’t build churches like that anymore. This one is so more ornate than the simple country Lutheran Church that I attend back home. I will have to take pictures to show you some time.

  7. hotlyspiced Says:

    I remember a time when churches always had open doors. It’s so sad that because of security issues, they now lock their doors. It’s true they don’t build churches like this anymore. The architecture is fascinating and I love the statues xx

  8. Jackie Says:

    Well this is quite a beautiful church, and you know we share a love for old churches. That exterior tile is amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it. I could almost feel your pain when you attempted to enter the church and found it locked, it’s such a disappointment! Thanks for sharing this beautiful church, so stunning.

    • Yes, we are sisters in the faith and love of aged churches, aren’t we? I found the tile especially impressive also.

      We also discovered two other churches, country ones, last Sunday. Posts will be forthcoming on those and I’m certain you will enjoy those images just as much.

  9. Sue Ready Says:

    I have been to this church which is quite ornate inside and beautiful but never noticed all the exterior details which you so carefully presented. And yes Catholics do like their churches ornate and fancy with lots of gold trimmings 🙂


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